You might be surprised to know that the first electric car was made in 1832 when Robert Anderson made his first model. However, these clean cars are increasing in popularity, and statistics show that as of March 2023, about 1,220,000 plug-in vehicles have been registered in the UK.
So, can you have a solar-charging car? Can you use your solar panels at home to power your vehicle using a solar panel car battery charger?
Our article will answer all these questions and help you learn more about solar charging an electric car.
What Is a Solar Charging Car?
Electric cars have an electronic motor instead of the traditional internal combustion engine. Instead of using fuel to power the engine, electric vehicles have large traction battery packs that power the electric motor.
To operate your vehicle, this battery must be connected to a wall outlet or charging equipment. As many countries are currently working on reducing their fossil fuel consumption, using your solar panel system at home to power your car will be an excellent decision.
The number of electric cars sold and registered is doubling every year. While this automatically reduces the demand for fossil fuel, it increases the demand for electric energy.
In an attempt to increase the production of sustainable electric energy, using solar panels to power electric vehicles seems like a reasonable solution. As a matter of fact, using solar energy to power electric vehicles is possible without adding any additional smart features to your car, battery, or charger.
Utilising your solar panels to power your home and charge your electric vehicle will double your energy savings. Instead of relying on energy from the grid, solar panels guarantee that you can power your electric vehicle using a sustainable energy source.
Are Solar Panels Efficient at Powering Electric Vehicles?
Solar panel systems convert the solar energy into electric energy. They can represent a sustainable and renewable energy source to power your electric vehicle or EV.
These panels are usually installed on your house’s roof to collect solar energy, and the electric energy produced can be used to power all your home appliances. The panels can also be connected to the electrical grid, which sends the excess electric energy produced to the utility company, so you can get paid for the energy you’re producing.
The electric energy produced by a solar system depends on several factors, including the number of solar panels, where you live, the roof’s angle, and the direction your property faces. All these factors affect the amount of direct sunlight your solar panels receive and, accordingly, the amount of electricity they produce.
A single typical solar panels are rated at 350 W, which refers to their power. Such a solar panel will produce 265 kilowatt hours of power annually and about 0.72 kilowatt hours per day. So, if your solar panel system contains 20 of those, the whole system will produce about 5,300 kilowatt hours every year.
It’s difficult to determine exactly how much ppwer an electric car needs to cover 100 kilometres. However, most models can cover this distance using 15 kilowatt hours of power. This means that the solar panel system you have at home might be able to power your electric vehicle if you don’t use electric power to run your property all the time. An average solar panel system can charge a car battery of 40 kilowatt hours of power in eight hours
However, if you’re planning to use the solar panel system to power your home appliances, you’ll have to invest in a larger solar panel. Nevertheless, you should understand that the amount of solar energy your solar panels produce to power your EV will depend on several factors.
For example, your solar panels will produce less electric energy in winter and cloudy weather, so there might not be enough energy available to recharge your EV battery if you’re using this energy to power your home appliances. In this case, you’ll have to supplement your solar panel charging system with electric power from the grid.
Can You Connect a Solar Panel to a Car Battery?
Although, in theory, it’s possible to charge your car battery using solar panels, you can’t just connect the battery to a panel. Photovoltaic or PV cells convert solar energy into electric energy, but it produces variable power output. This uneven power can’t be directly fed into the EV battery because it can easily damage it.
It’s best to have a smart charging station that you can use with your solar panels to power your EV battery. The smart charging station installed won’t use power from your solar panels, but it can control the quantity and quality of the electric energy produced and how it charges your EV battery.
If you want to use a regular EV charger with your solar panel charger, you’ll need an inverter. The inverter changes DC to AC, so it can be used to power your EV. Therefore, you must check that your solar EV charger has an inverter, or you won’t be able to use the energy from your solar panels to power your electric vehicle.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Solar Panels to Power Your Electric Car?
Switching to renewable energy comes with several benefits. Electric vehicles are generally about 70% more energy-efficient from the minute you turn them on compared to traditional vehicles. When combined with solar panels, there are various benefits you can reap when you use energy from your solar panels to charge your EV battery.
- Most home solar panel systems will produce enough energy to power your home appliances and charge your EV.
- High-quality solar panel systems that professionals have installed require little maintenance. This means that you can save a lot of cash by charging your EV using a cheap yet efficient power source.
- Electric cars can be charged using electricity from coal-powered electric stations. However, using solar panels will maximise their clean energy benefits because solar energy is sustainable, renewable, and clean.
- Solar panel EV charging is cheaper than grid electricity charging as the cost of producing your own electric energy at home is lower than the cost of buying it from the grid.
On the other hand, there are a few things to consider before charging your EV using solar panels.
- Installing a solar panel system can be expensive, especially if you want your system to be big enough to power your home appliances and charge your electric car. However, the government in the UK is currently supporting switching to renewable energy under the ECO4 scheme, which allows you to receive discounted or even free solar panels.
- Your solar panels won’t work properly unless it’s sunny and they can receive enough direct sunlight. Since the weather is usually cloudy in the UK, you might have to supplement the system with power from the grid to charge your EV battery, especially in winter.
- Solar EV battery charging takes more time than grid charging. However, you can choose to connect your solar charger to the panels overnight to recharge your battery.
What Is the Appropriate Size of a Solar Panel System to Charge an Electric Car?
A system composed of 8 to 12 panels will probably produce enough electric energy to power your electric vehicle. If you live in an area that receives more sunlight, a system of 8 panels will be enough.
However, if you’re using your solar panel system to power different appliances in your house, then you’ll have to switch to a larger system.
What Is a Solar Car Battery Charger?
This special charger allows you to use excess energy from your solar panels system to charge your EV car battery. After the solar panels convert solar energy to DC, which can be used by different devices, the electricity is then fed into the solar car battery using a solar regulator.
Since the electricity produced from solar panels isn’t always stable, the regulator will help charge your EV battery without damaging it.
How Do You Maintain a Solar EV Charger?
It’s important to maintain your EV charger by securing the cables, keeping the charger clean, and replacing all the damaged parts. With proper maintenance, your charger and solar panels can last for years, so you won’t have to replace them often, which is great news given their relatively high initial cost.
Of course, EV chargers represent a new technology, so experts can’t actually determine the lifespan of a solar EV charger. However, most agree that it can last for at least ten years.
Solar Charging Cars Summary
You can use energy from your solar panels to power your electric vehicle. However, you need to use an inverter to ensure that the variable electric energy produced isn’t directly fed into the battery.
The amount of electric energy produced by your solar panels and available to recharge your electric car depends on several factors, including the weather condition and the house appliances you use the solar panels to power.
Although solar panels take more time to recharge your electric car, they represent a sustainable and cheap energy source. However, you need to consider some issues, like the initial cost of the system and the difference in electricity output due to weather changes.